Growing Hops - Harvesting Hops
When you decide to harvest your crop of hops, which will typically be in late August or September, cut the training string at the top and let the bines lay down on the ground. As it dries, the sap from the bines will go back down into the rootstock for winter storage. You can then pick off the hop cones and prepare to dry them. Cut the lower bines at about 2 feet from the ground. Leave the bottom growth that occurs afterwards to help with reinforcing the plant for next year, making it tougher and hardier. Keep in mind, you may notice the first year that the plant may look a little thin, but the following year it will yield more hops, as the plant will have a more developed root system.
You can dry your hops by using a food dehydrator. The hops will need to dry for several hours. Check on the hops to see if they are dry every so often. You can tell if they are dry by opening a cone up. Remember, they may feel dry on the outside, but it can take a while for them to dry thoroughly in the center. Also, bittering hops take a little longer to dry than aroma hops. To determine if they are dry enough, pull the cone open. If the petals break off easily from the stem, the hops are dry enough to be put to use, or put into a plastic bag to be used later. If the petals are still sticking to the stem, and the stem seems somewhat lithe and moist, leave the hops to dry longer. Try not to over dry the hops however to the point where the petals and stem shatter in your hand when you open up the cone. The alpha may begin to burn as a result of over drying, so check them regularly.
If you don?t have access to a food dehydrator, you can dry them in an oven slowly on a very low temperature. You can also pick the cones and set them outside to dry on a screen, but keep the cones out of direct sunlight. Air circulation and drying them slow are very essential when drying hops. They should feel papery when dry, but don?t dry them so long they turn brown. Also, it?s important that only dry cones go into plastic bags for storage. Wet cones will turn to mush if stored in a plastic bag. If you are using your cones to brew, you will have to use your best guess as to what the alpha may be. But that?s what it?s all about, ?trial and error.? The brew will tell you how accurate your guess was. A little reminder is that if you use a lot of nitrogen when your plant is growing, it will grow better, but a lower alpha will result. You can get your hops analyzed to get a specific alpha acid, but it can be expensive. Below we have given you an approximate alpha acid based on commercial growing.
Remember, upon receiving your hop rhizomes, keep them in a plastic bag and refrigerated if you are waiting to plant them. Don?t freeze them. If the ground is still too cold in May, you can plant them in a gallon pot and transplant them outside in June. Keep in mind that different cultivars of hops grow better in different climates. Here is a list of which do better where:
Growing Hops - Varieties
Some Hop Plants grow better in certain locations and weather conditions than others. Here is a list of which do better where:
Cascade- 4.5-7.0% alpha. Grows well in all climates. Susceptible to aphid. (These do really well in our area of North Carolina - Central Piedmont, for sure)
Centennial- 9.5-11.5% alpha. Grows well in all climates. Susceptible to downy mildew.
Chinook- 11.0-13.0% alpha. Grows well in dry, hot climates. Great ornamental hop. Does not grow well in moist climates. Subject to spider mite.
Fuggle- 4.0-5.5% alpha. Grows well in damp climates, suffers a little in hot climates.
Glacier- 5.8% alpha. Grows well in all climates.
Golding- 4.0-5.0% alpha. Grows well in mild, moist climates, does ok in hot climates.
Hallertau- 3.5-5.5% alpha. Grows well in mild, moist climates, suffers a little in dry hot climates.
Horizon- 12.0-13.5% alpha. Grows well in all climates.
Liberty- 3.0-5.5% alpha. Grows well in mild climates. Can grow in hot climates.
Mt. Hood- 5.0-8.0% alpha. Grows well in all climates.
Northern Brewer- 8.0%-10% alpha. Grows well in temperate climates. Suffers a little in hot climates.
Nugget- 12.0-14.0% alpha. Grows well in all climates.
Saaz- 3.5-4.5% alpha. Grows well in cooler, moist climates.
Santiam- 6.0-7.0% alpha. Grows well in a moderate climate, does ok in hot climates.
Sterling- 5.5-7.0% alpha. Grows well in a moderate climate, does ok in hot climates.
Tettnang- 4.0-5.0% alpha. Grows well in a moderate climate, suffers a little in hot climates.
Willamette- 4.0-6.0% alpha. Grows well in all climates.